Monthly Archives: September 2022

Chapter Five: The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

Robert F. Mullen, Ph.D.
Director/ReChanneling

This is a draft of Chapter Five – ‘The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation’’ in my upcoming book on moderating social anxiety disorder and its comorbidities. I present this as an opportunity for readers to share their ideas and constructive criticism – suggestions that I gratefully consider and evaluate as I work to ensure the most beneficial product to those with emotional dysfunction (which is all of us to some degree). Please forward your comments in the form provided below.

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The Trajectory of Our Self-Annihilation

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.
Maybe it is about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you,
so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
— Paul Coelho

While we remain conjoined with our social anxiety disorder, we continue to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. These become our core self-beliefs as a result of childhood disturbance. By dissociating ourselves from our condition, we perceive things more rationally. It is SAD that compels us to think irrationally, and it is this compulsion that causes us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. In my experience developing and implementing programs to challenge the self-annihilation of those living with SAD, I have identified the overarching integrant. We are lost. Like the preverbal wandering lamb, our flanks are exposed to the wolves of our irrationality. 

We are the personification of the fabled protagonist wandering, helpless and hopeless, in the forest. Our hunger for safety and comfort drives us to grasp onto anything that offers sustenance, no matter how destructive to our well-being. We encounter the house of candy and voraciously consume it even though our instincts advise us of the likelihood of villainy within. 

Mindful we are not accountable for having SAD should relieve us of the unjustifiable shame and guilt we have relied upon to rationalize our condition. Since we are not at fault for having SAD, we should no longer feel the need to beat ourselves for our condition. Yet we continue to do so. Why is that? The answer is obvious. While we are not accountable for the cards we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play the hand we have been given. In essence, our resistance to recovery continues the cycle of guilt and shame that causes us to continually beat ourselves up. 

It is a common refrain that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. That is especially true for social anxiety because we find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of irrational fears and avoidance of social interaction. Contrary to what SAD tells us, we are not stupid. We know, after decades of denial, that our thoughts and behaviors are self-destructive yet feel doomed to repeat them ad nauseam. Then we beat ourselves up for our failure to escape this prison of self-abuse. We hate our life, and we hate ourselves for putting up with it. 

So, in this chapter, we are going to learn the history of our negative thoughts and behaviors so we can put an end to this endless cycle of fear that alienates us from our true nature. We will see the development of our self-destructive proclivities as a series of stages. It is not a perfectly linear trajectory. It is a collaboration of associated events. For example, the onset of SAD corresponds to our negative intermediate beliefs which are associated with our perceptions of childhood disturbance. Like the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions in all human endeavors, each stage in our trajectory complements, influences, and overlaps.

The negative cycle we are in may have convinced us that there is
something wrong with us. That is untrue. The only thing we may be doing wrong is viewing ourselves and the world inaccurately.

Core Beliefs

It begins with our core beliefs that underscore our understanding of self. Core beliefs are our deeply held convictions that determine how we see ourselves in the world. We formulate them in childhood in response to information, experiences, inferences and deductions, and by accepting what we are told as true. They mold the unquestioned underlying themes that govern our perceptions, and they, ostensibly, remain as our belief system throughout life. Even if a core belief is irrational or inaccurate, it defines how we see ourselves in the world. When we decline to question our core beliefs, we act upon them as though they are real and true. 

Core beliefs are more rigid and exclusive in individuals with SAD because we tend to store information consistent with negative beliefs, ignoring evidence that contradicts it. We entertain a cognitive bias – a subconscious error in thinking that leads us to misinterpret information, impacting the accuracy of our perspectives and decisions. 

Childhood Disturbance

During the development of our core beliefs, we are subject to a childhood disturbance – a broad and generic term for something that interferes with our optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, or social development. The word disturbance generates images of overt and tragic abuse, but this is not necessarily the case. As explained in Chapter One, any number of things can be defined as childhood disturbance. It can be intentional or accidental, real or imagined. (The suggestibility and emotional creativeness of the pre-adolescent is legendary.) I gave you the example of the toddler who senses abandonment when her or his parental quality time is interrupted by a phone call. It is safe to posit that every child perceives disturbances daily. They are universal and indiscriminate. Cumulative evidence that a toxic childhood is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established, and experts speculate that each of us will develop at least one diagnosable emotional dysfunction at some point in our life. 

Negative Core Beliefs 

This confluence of developing core beliefs and childhood disturbance generates negative core beliefs about the self (I am abandoned) and others (you abandoned me). Feelings of detachment, neglect, and exploitation are also common consequences of childhood disturbance. It is our self-oriented negative core beliefs that compel us to view ourselves in these four ways. As helpless (I am weak, I am incompetent); hopeless (nothing can be done about it); undesirable (no one will like me); and worthless (I don’t deserve to be happy). Our other-oriented negative core beliefs view people as demeaning, dismissive, malicious, and manipulative. Other-oriented self-beliefs incentivize us to blame others for our condition, avoiding personal accountability. We hold others responsible for our feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, undesirability, and worthlessness. 

Emotional Dysfunction

The next step in our trajectory is the onset of emotional dysfunction as a result of childhood disturbance. Roughly 90% of disorder onset happens during adolescence. Two exceptions are narcissistic personality disorder and later-life PTSD. The symptoms and characteristics of the emotional dysfunction often remain dormant, manifesting later in life. The susceptibility to onset originates in childhood – emotional viruses that sense vulnerability. Experts tell us that SAD infects around the age of thirteen. A combination of genetic and environmental factors drives SAD. Researchers recently discovered a specific serotonin transporter gene called “SLC6A4” that is strongly correlated with SAD. Whatever the causes, it is our perception of childhood disturbance that produces the susceptibility to infection.

Insufficient Satisfaction of Needs

Self-esteem is mindfulness of our value to ourselves, society, and the world. It can be further understood as a complex interrelationship between how we think about ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how we process and present that information. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reveals how childhood disturbance disrupts our natural development. The orderly flow of social and emotional development requires satisfying fundamental human needs. Childhood perceptions of abandonment, detachment, exploitation, and neglect subvert certain biological, physiological, and emotional needs like familial support, healthy relationships, and a sense of safety and belongingness. This lacuna negatively impacts our self-esteem which we express by our undervaluation or regression of our positive self-qualities. This does not signify a deficit, but latency and dormancy – underdevelopment of our character strengths and attributes due to inactivity. 

Negative Intermediate Beliefs 

The confluence of SAD and the disruption in self-esteem generate life-consistent negative self-beliefs sustained by cognitively distorted assumptions. The onset of SAD happens during the development of our intermediate beliefs. These establish our attitudes, rules, and assumptions. Attitudes refer to our emotions, convictions, and behaviors. Rules are the principles or regulations that influence our behaviors. Our assumptions are what we believe to be true or real. Despite similar core beliefs, we each have varying intermediate beliefs developed by information and experience, e.g., social, cultural, and environmental – the same things that make up our personality. 

Negative Self-Beliefs and Image

Our SAD-induced attitudes, rules, and assumptions result in cognitively distorted and maladaptive understandings of the self and the world. In psychology, experts present two forms of behavior – adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive behavior is behavior that is positive and functional. Maladaptive behaviors are dysfunctional behaviors. that unique characteristic of SAD. They distort our perception and we ‘adapt’ negatively (maladapt) to stimuli or situations. To analogize, if the room is sunny and welcoming, SAD tells us it is dark and unapproving. 

Automatic Negative Thoughts and Behaviors 

We articulate our fears through preprogrammed, self-fulfilling prophecies called ANTs. Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are involuntary, anxiety-provoking assumptions that spontaneously appear in response to the places or circumstances that provoke our anxiety. Examples include the classroom, a job interview, a social event, and the family dinner. Dysfunctional assumptions caused by our negative self-beliefs impact the content of our ANTs. Even when we know our fears and apprehensions are irrational, their emotional impact is so great, they run roughshod over any healthy, rational response. We will delve deeper into all of this as we progress. Then, together we will develop a targeted plan to dramatically moderate your social anxiety.

We briefly discussed how SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Propaganda is the distribution of biased and misleading information. SAD utilizes propaganda to convince us of the validity of our self-annihilating thoughts and behaviors. We manifest the effectiveness of SAD propaganda through our maladaptive behaviors and cognitively distorted responses to our fears.

Cognitive distortions are the exaggerated or irrational thought patterns involved in the perpetuation of our anxiety and depression. Everyone engages in cognitive distortions and is usually unaware of doing so. They reinforce or justify our toxic behaviors. They twist our thinking, painting an inaccurate picture of our self in the world. We distort reality to avoid or validate our irrational attitudes, rules, and assumptions.

Part of our counteroffensive is recognizing these cognitive distortions to challenge and counteract them. Throughout this book, we will analyze and discuss each of the thirteen cognitive distortions most applicable to SAD and analyze how we utilize them to reinforce and justify our irrational thoughts and behaviors.

The bulk of this chapter focuses on the origins and trajectory of our life-consistent negative self-beliefs, illustrating the slow but inexorable progression of the SAD army on our emotional well-being. We are now beginning to understand SAD’s tactical advantage. This will help us forge the tools and techniques to (1) defend ourselves and (2) overwhelm or conquer our fears and avoidance of social connectedness. In Chapter Seven, we will look at some of these tools both scientific and psychological.

One of the repercussions of living with SAD is our self-annihilation – our compulsion to beat ourselves up for our difficulties rather than embrace our character strengths, virtues, and achievements. You are challenging your social anxiety. That is positive neural information, the cornerstone of proactive neuroplasticity. Acknowledge your determination, take credit for it, and give your psyche a hearty pat on the back.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
— Lao Tzu

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Comments, Suggestions, Constructive Criticism.

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Recovery: the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Empowerment: the process of becoming stronger and more confident in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Neuroplasticity: our brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experience.

Proactive: controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Proactive Neuroplasticity: accelerated learning through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information.

ReChanneling’s Recovery and Empowerment Workshops launch on November 16th and runs through January 18th. This 10-session workshop will meet Wednesday evenings from 7:00 to 8:15 PM. 

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Dr. Mullen’s years of researching and implementing programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional dysfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives demonstrate the learning effectiveness of proactive neuroplasticity. DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neutral input of information dramatically accelerates and consolidates our pursuit of personal goals and objectives—eliminating a bad habit, self-transformation—harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living.

Neuroplasticity is evidence of our brain’s constant adaptation to learning. Scientists refer to the process as structural remodeling of the brain. It is what makes learning and registering new experiences possible. All information notifies our neural network to realign, generating a correlated change in behavior and perspective. 

What is significant is our ability to dramatically accelerate learning by consciously compelling our brain to repattern its neural circuitry. Deliberate, repetitive, neural information (DRNI) empowers us to proactively transform our thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. 

See Anatomy of Recovery and Empowerment Workshops 

Reactive neuroplasticity is our brain’s natural adaption to information. Information includes all thought, behavior, experience, and sensation. Active neuroplasticity is cognitive pursuits such as engaging in social interaction, teaching, aerobics, and creating. Proactive neuroplasticity is the most effective means of learning and unlearning because the regimen of deliberate, repetitive neural input of information accelerates and consolidates restructuring. 

Hebbian Learning

Today, we recognize that our neural pathways are not fixed but dynamic and malleable. The human brain retains the capacity to continually reorganize pathways and create new connections and neurons to expedite learning. 

Neurons do not act by themselves but through neural circuits that strengthen or weaken their connections based on electrical activity. The deliberate, repetitious, input of information impels neurons to fire repeatedly, causing them to wire together. The more repetitions, the more robust the new connection. This is Hebbian Learning. DRNI is the most effective way to promote and retain learning and unlearning. 

We not only prompt our neural network to restructure by deliberately inputting information, but through repetition, we cause circuits to strengthen and realign, speeding up the process of learning and unlearning. 

Accelerates and Consolidates Learning

What happens when multiple neurons wire together? Every input of information, intentional or otherwise, causes a receptor neuron to fire. Each time a neuron fires, it reshapes and strengthens the axon connection and the neural bond. Repeated neural input creates multiple connections between receptor, sensory, and relay neurons, attracting other neurons. An increase in learning efficacy arises from the sensory neuron’s repeated and persistent stimulation of the postsynaptic cell. 

Postsynaptic neurons multiply, amplifying the positive or negative energy of the information. Energy is the size, amount, or degree of that which passes from one atom to another. The activity of the axon pathway heightens, urging the synapses to increase and accelerate the release of chemicals and hormones that generate the commitment, persistence, and perseverance useful to recovery or the pursuit of personal goals and objectives. 

The consequence of DRNI over an extended period is obvious. Multiple firings substantially accelerate and consolidate learning. In addition, DRNI activates long-term potentiation, which increases the strength of the nerve impulses along the connecting pathways, generating more energy. Deliberate, repetitive, neural information generates higher levels of BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factors) proteins associated with improved cognitive functioning, mental health, and memory. 

PROACTIVE NEUROPLASTICITY YOUTUBE SERIES

We know how challenging it is to change, remove ourselves from hostile environments, and break habits that interfere with our optimum functioning. We are physiologically hard-wired to resist anything that jeopardizes our status quo. Our brain’s inertia senses and repels changes, and our basal ganglia resist any modification in behavior patterns. DRNI empowers us to assume accountability for our emotional well-being and quality of life by proactively controlling the input of information.

Neural Reciprocity

Our brain reciprocates our efforts in abundance because every viable input of information engages millions of neurons with their own energy transmission. DRNI plays a crucial role in reciprocity. The chain reaction generated by a single neural receptor involves millions of neurons that amplify energy on a massive scale. The reciprocating energy from DRNI is vastly more abundant because of the repeated firing by the neuron receptor. Positive energy in, positive energy multiplied millions of times, positive energy reciprocated in abundance. 

Conversely, negative energy in, negative energy multiplied millions of times, negative energy reciprocated in abundance. 

Our brain does not think; it is an organic reciprocator that provides the means for us to think. Its function is the maintenance of our heartbeat, nervous system, and blood flow. It tells us when to breathe, stimulates thirst, and controls our weight and digestion. 

Hormonal Neurotransmissions

Because our brain does not distinguish healthy from toxic information, the natural neurotransmission of pleasurable and motivational hormones happens whether we feed it self-destructive or constructive information. That is one of the reasons breaking a habit, keeping to a resolution, or recovering is challenging. We receive neurotransmissions of GABA for relaxation, dopamine for pleasure and motivation, endorphins for euphoria, and serotonin for a sense of well-being. Acetylcholine supports our positivity, glutamate enhances our memory, and noradrenalin improves concentration. In addition, information impacts the fear and anxiety-provoking hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. When we input positive information, our brain naturally releases neurotransmitters that support that negativity. 

Conversely, every time we provide positive information, our brain releases chemicals and hormones that make us feel viable and productive, subverting the negative energy channeled by the things that impede our potential. 

The power of DRNI is that a regimen of positive, repetitive input can compensate for decades of irrational, self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, and provide the mental and emotional wherewithal to effectively pursue our personal goals and objectives. 

Personal goals and objectives are those things we want to change about ourselves: eliminating a bad habit or behavior, improving life satisfaction, and revitalizing self-esteem and motivation. The deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information significantly improves the probability of recovery. Likewise, it empowers us to pursue those personal goals and objectives that make our lives more viable and productive. 

ReChanneling targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration, utilizing an integration of science and east-west psychologies. Science gives us proactive neuroplasticity, CBT and positive psychologies are western-oriented, and eastern practices provide the therapeutic aspects of Abhidharma psychology and the overarching truths of ethical behavior. 

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Another Plateau

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RECOVERY AND EMPOWERMENT

ReChanneling has reached a new plateau with more than 1,000 individuals learning how to consciously restructure their neural networks. Proactive neuroplasticity can dramatically transform self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, creating healthy new mindsets, skills, and abilities. 

Recovery: regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost

Empowerment: becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experience.

Proactive: controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

Proactive Neuroplasticity: defining our emotional well-being through DRNI – the deliberate, repetitive, neural input of information.

Proactive Neuroplasticity and Positive Behavioral Change

DRNI: Proactively Restructuring Our Neural Network

Proactive Neuroplasticity: YouTube Series

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